Some time ago, Katie Schwartz tagged me with a "Ten Things You Don't Want to Know About Me" meme.
I feared that she'd think I was ignoring her, but the fact of the matter is that I am such a damned boring person that I could not think of much that was outrageous about me, except for one thing.
I considered all kinds of things that various people find amusing or weird about me. One is my love of hot sauces. I typically have 15 to 20 different hot sauces on my shelves. At work over the years, people have always known I was the "go-to" guy when it came to accentuating a lunch with hot sauces-- I always have a desk drawer devoted to hot sauces. But this is not a unique quality, really. A couple of weeks ago, when dropping off my stepdaughter at my wife's best friend Pallette's house so my stepdaughter could hang out with her buddy Ewan, Pallette and I had a chance to chat and found we shared a passion not only for hot sauce, but a particular one-- Marie Sharpe's Habenero Sauce-- so this is not weird or unique.
The only thing people find upsetting, appalling or disturbing about me is that I recently went 20 years without seeing a dentist.
Now don't get me wrong-- I floss every day, I use anti-tartar toothpaste-- I take good care of my teeth. But it was like coming home late-- you know you're going to be in trouble anyway, so why not stay for another round. I knew I was going to get scolded after the first six months, and started putting it off. Year after year, I knew that it was going to get worse, and it gave me more reason to put it off.
Finally, in the last year of my last job, in desperation, I signed up for the optional dental insurance. Surely this would make me see a dentist-- after all, I was paying for it already.
But my powers of procrastination won out. As the job ended, I still had a couple of more months of coverage-- to the end of last summer. I was able to delay it until the month coverage was going to run out, August of last year. I finally bit the bullet and made an appointment for a month hence.
As luck would have it, of the over 7,000 days from January, 1986 when I last saw a dentist, to August 4, when I had the appointment, that day happened to be the day there was a memorial service for my late friend Mark. It was to be a solemn occasion, taking place just a few feet from where he was slain. And of course I was asked to speak. No problem, I thought. My gums might be a little sore, but no big deal.
Wrong. Amazingly, the exam showed that I had no cavities. But since it had been 20 years since I'd had a real cleaning, my dentist had to shoot my whole mouth full of novocaine and clean under my gums. As I walked out of the office, the entire bottom of my face was without sensation. I could talk, but only like "Mushmouth" from the Cosby kids. I was appalled.
The rest of the day became a race-- as I nervously watched the clock, sensation slowly returned to my mouth. Finally, an hour before I was to speak, enough feeling returned to my face that I felt confident that I could speak pretty clearly. I was more relieved than just about any other time in my life. I'd have felt like a real asshole if I'd have stood there sounding like an extra from "Deliverance" while I eulogized my friend.
A couple of weeks later, I got a notice that they were offering to COBRA my dental coverage for my son and I at the same very reasonable cost of the original coverage. I jumped at it.
My teeth have suffered many assaults in their lives-- they got jarred pretty good in a couple of fights. For years, they were worn down as I ground them in my sleep until I mysteriously stopped doing it (just as mysteriously as I had started). Nearly every day I douse them with favorite things of mine that love to stain them-- tea, coffee, tomatoes, red wine. They even took a direct hit with a cinder block when I was younger (don't ask) with no damage. And they continue to serve me. If I'm not going to spend my waning years eating corn meal mush and blender-shakes, I need to see a dentist twice a year. And whenever I fear a visit to my dentist, I remind myself of that nervous August afternoon-- when I know that Mark was up there laughing his ass off at my predicament.